Thursday, January 01, 2009

Christmas Vignettes I

Happy New Year! As usual, I have some catch-up to do. We do intend to post a year-in-review post, as we did last year, but first... let's review last week's holiday a bit.

Isn't Christmas a wonderful season? I just love it. It's busy, yes, kinda hectic, even, but... golly, what a glorious, mysterious, amazing celebration! What a richness of deep, holy, mind-blowing thoughts to be thought--not only at this time of year, but especially. God made man. The Infinite becoming an infant. The Eternal One taking on flesh so that He might die. All I have to do is scratch the surface of the Incarnation, and I'm reeling, dizzy with great thoughts of my greater God! I am so glad there's Christmas.

This year we named our Christmas tree George Washington, for reasons that would be immediately obvious if you saw him. He is tall, elegant, stately, perfectly shaped--the model tree, the tree that other trees aspire to become. We had him up all month, and despite what initially seemed a hunger strike, he stayed green and fresh all along. Even now, only a small smattering of needles adorn our carpet.

My only Christmas tree disappointment this year was that I had a cold when we first got Washington. Nose completely stopped up; no ability to smell whatsoever. "Does he smell good?" I asked my husband as we put G.W. in the stand. (My nose was buried in pine needles at the time.) "Smells great," said Dave. I sighed. By the time my sinuses drained, the pine smell had faded. I missed it altogether.

We don't do themed trees. I am new to the idea of themed trees--never even heard of them until last year. Nope, our trees pretty much have the same decorations every year: lots of white lights, some aged, hand-me-down glass balls from my parents' collection, and the wide range of unique ornaments Dave and I have received through the years. Call it an old fashioned look. We like it. We're working with what we've got.

We thoroughly enjoyed celebrating Advent again this year. We kept it simple and pretty much repeated what worked so well last year. Every night after dinner, we turned off most of the house lights and lit candles--one for each passing week--to mark the approach of the Light of the World. We read a story from one of the Nativity books we took out from the library. (There are lots of good ones that take their text straight from the Bible.) Then we read through the progressive story that goes with our Advent calendar and added that night's character to the scene. Then we sang the first verse of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." We blew out the candles and said a brief prayer. Then: bedtime.

Matthew was a little too wiggly to enjoy Advent fully this year, but Meg just loved it. I think it was the highlight of her every day in December. Sometimes she would start at breakfast. "Mommy, can we do Advent?"

One of the best parts for me, other than her delighted anticipation, was watching Meg learn the lyrics to "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Usually at nighttime, she would just listen as Dave and I sang, but at other times I would hear her singing snippets to herself. Then on Christmas Day, after we finally added Baby Jesus to the calendar, Meg surprised us. "Sing 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing?" she asked. And that morning, she finally sang with us, belting out the verse at about 85% volume and a near monotone pitch. She knew every word.

I think that was the best Christmas present I got this year.

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